After graduating college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas –a place, she thinks, where nothing much ever happens. She begins working as a waitress while trying to figure out her next step when two murders happen on the same day. Sadly, one of the victims is her coworker Victoria, a newly single mother, who Annie had cancelled plans with just hours before her death. Annie is racked with guilt and the feeling that she could have prevented this tragedy. She gets a chance to redeem herself when Leroy, her grandfather and former town sheriff asks her to assist at his private investigation firm. Before she knows it, Annie dives head-first into the world of crime solving, even as her lack of experience gets her into hot water with locals who would prefer she look the other way.
Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize, which is awarded to a previously unpublished author for a first mystery novel set in the Southwest. This slow-burning mystery is a solid debut with a surprise ending and refreshing and relatable characters, especially Annie, who bungles her way into dangerous situations as she learns the ropes of investigative work. Crime fiction fans in need of something new have just hit pay dirt, and this reader is hoping it will be the first in a new series.